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Make them prove it

America has been a tabloid kind of nation for a while now. Tabloid-style news gets attention over in-depth news that reports what is actually happening.

In the past, news racks were full of periodicals with come-on cover stories such as  “I Married an Alien.” Sure, they were fun to read but most people took those stories with a huge grain of salt.

These days tabloid stories embrace our celebrity culture—those types of magazines herald breathless headlines that ramp up our curiosity about this or that A-, B-, C- and D-List names. We are never so engaged as when we are faced with a story about our favorite famous person.

Tabloid-type news invaded mainstream media and any number of Websites. The First Amendment allows anyone to write and publish any thing they wish, regardless of how incredulous it is.

Last week the president-elect, without evidence, said that there were 3 million illegal votes cast in last month’s presidential election. Some may think that if he said it,  it must be true. The problem with that is that every news outlet reported his statement; to be fair, most of those outlets added that it was an unfounded and unverified allegation. But that won’t matter to a large portion of the citizenry.

A reasonable person can read an outlandish story in a supermarket tabloid, roll their eyes and move on. But when outlandish stories are spread by government leaders and media outlets, many reasonable people would give that story some credence.

It is human nature to believe what one reads or hears on the news. An old saw says “You can’t believe everything you read.” That adage seems to have lost some of its power in our current climate.

The antidote to fake news is education. It is important for our schools to prepare our high school students for college and a career. That calls for instruction in skills. We must not, ever, lose sight of the fact that education must continue—or return—an element of developing critical thinking. Some of us learn that if an offer is too good to be true, it probably is. The flip side is that if something sounds too outrageous, it, too, is probably false.

In math and science classes students are asked to show their work to prove  how they came to the answer.

We should expect nothing less from our leaders—political, media or otherwise. If they make a statement that seems too far out, we should ask them to show us their work—prove it.